Letter to Inessa Armand
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Wed Aug 9 23:53:15 MDT 2000
Letter to Inessa Armand
Written: January 17, 1915
Transcription/Markup: Sally Ryan and Xxxzx Xyyxyz
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive (marxists.org) 1999
I would very much advise you to be more explicit in the draft of your pamphlet;
otherwise too much remains unclear.
I want to express my opinion now on one of the points you make. I suggest you
entirely throw out paragraph 3 "demand (by the woman) for free love". This is
indeed not a proletarian but a bourgeois demand. What do you really mean by it?
What can one mean by it?
(1) Freedom from material (financial) calculations in love? from :
(2) material cares?
(3) religious prejudices?
(4) paternal injunctions, etc.?
(5) the prejudices of "society"?
(6) a petty milieu (peasant, petty bourgeois, bourgeois intellectual)?
(7) the toils of the law, the courts, the police?
(8) serious problems in love
(10) that this makes possible adultery, etc.
I have made a number of points (not all, of course). I don't think you mean
points 8 to 10, but rather points 1 to 7, or something approximating to points 1
to 7. For these points 1 to 7, however, you should choose some other
connotation, since the term "free love" does not exactly express these concepts.
The public and the readers of the pamphlet will inevitably understand something
like points 8 to 10, even if that was not your intention. Because the noisiest
and most talkative classes in contemporary society, those of the "social set",
understand by free love points 8 to 10, your demand is bourgeois, not
For the proletariat the most important points are, firstly 1 and 2, and then 1
to 7, but these do not really embody the term "free love".
The question is not what "you would like to understand" by this subjectively.
The question is the objective logic of class relations in love.
Letter to Inessa Armand II
Please forgive the delay in replying to your letter. I wanted to reply yesterday
but, being detained, had no time to write.
As regards the pamphlet draft, I found that the "demand for free love" was
unclear, and that independent of your will or desire (which point I underlined
when I said the question is one of objective class relations and not a
question of your subjective desires) the demand will appear in contemporary
social conditions a bourgeois and not a proletarian demand. You do not agree.
All right. Let's study the matter once again.
Concretely; I listed 10 possible interpretations (interpretations inevitable in
conditions of class struggle) and I commented that interpretations 1 to 7 would,
in my opinion, be typical or characteristic for working-class women and 8 to 10
for bourgeois women. If this is to be denied, you must show:
(1) that the interpretations are false (then you must find others to take their
place or reject the false ones);
(2) that they are incomplete (therefore complete them);
(3) or that they cannot be divided into proletarian and bourgeois
interpretations. But you do not do any of these things.
You don't touch on points 1 to 7. I therefore assume that you recognise their
correctness (in general)? What you write about the prostitution of women workers
and their dependence, "the impossibility of saying no", is well within points 1
to 7. On this question there is no disagreement whatever between us. You do not
deny either that this is a proletarian interpretation. That leaves us points 8
You do not entirely "understand them" and you "object" "I do not understand
how one CAN (these are your words) identify (??!!) free love with point 10." It
turns out that I "identify" and you are getting ready to rebuke and crush me.
What does this mean?
Bourgeois women understand by free love points 8 to 10 that is my thesis. Do
you deny this? Tell me then what bourgeois ladies understand by free love? You
do not tell me. Do not both literature and life prove that bourgeois women
understand free love precisely thus? They fully prove this! You admit this by
And since this is the case, arising from the class position of these women, it
would be both impossible and naive to "deny" this.
One must make a clear demarcation line and then counterpose the proletarian
standpoint. It is necessary to take into consideration the objective fact that,
otherwise, without such an approach, they will extract the relevant passages
from your pamphlet, interpret them in their own way, your pamphlet will serve as
grist to their mill; they will distort your thoughts before the workers, sowing
confusion among the workers, awakening in them the fear that you have perhaps
brought them ideas alien to them. And in the hands of these women are the gross
(crass) newspapers and so on.
And you, completely abandoning the objective and class standpoint, "attack" me,
accuse me of identifying free love with points 8 to 10. Astounding, simply
"Even fleeting passion, a passion liaison" is "more poetic and pure" than the
"loveless kisses" exchanged as a matter of habit between husband and wife. That
is what you write. And you propose writing this in your pamphlet. Excellent. Is
this counterposing logical?
Loveless kisses which a husband and wife exchange as a matter of habit are
impure. Agreed. What do you want to make the contrary? A loving kiss, it would
appear. No. You make the contrary a "passing" (why passing?) "passion" (why not
love?). It follows logically that these loveless kisses (since they are passing)
are the contrary of loveless kisses exchanged between husband and wife...
Would it not be better in a popular pamphlet to counterpose a proletarian civil
marriage with love (adding, if you simply must, that a transient liaison or
passion may be vile or pure), to loveless, vile and impure, petty bourgeois,
intellectual or peasant marriage? (See points 6 or 5 in my note.)
You place in opposition to one another not class types but cases, which might
indeed arise. But is the matter one of cases? If you take as your subject-matter
the individual case of impure kisses in marriage and pure kisses in a transient
liaison, it is subject-matter for a novel (since a novel carries descriptions of
individuals, analysis of character, psychology of given types) but in a
You have grasped excellently my thought on the unsuitable quotation from Key in
saying that it is "stupid" to assume the role of a qualified "professor of
love". True. And what about assuming the role of "professor of transient love"?
I do not want to engage in polemics. I would much rather have put this letter
aside and waited for our next meeting. But I want the pamphlet to be good and I
want no one to be able to draw any unpleasant phrases from it for you (a single
phrase sometimes has the effect of a spoonful of tar), so that no one can put
into your mouth words which you did not want to say.
I am sure that what you have written has been done "without meaning to", and I
am sending this letter to you simply so that you can study your plan more
thoroughly as a result of my letters, which is rather better than at the end of
a conversation, for the plan is a very important thing.
Don't you know any French socialist woman? Translate to her (as if translating
from the English) my points 1 to 10 and your remarks on "transient" love and so
on. Watch her and listen attentively to her: it is a little experience to know
what outside people think of things, what their impressions will be and what
they expect of the pamphlet.
Lenin Works Archive
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SUNY at Albany
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